Inner tension is described as different aspects of our personalities being in conflict with each other and possibly acting in dysfunctional ways. For example, if you make a mistake, you may say to yourself, “I can’t believe I keep messing up like this!” Then you may say to yourself, “Give yourself a break, no one is perfect.” We find that in the human condition, there is nothing new under the sun. Even in ancient times, we see a demonstration of this inner opposition or polarization when St. Paul in the book of Romans writes about not wanting to do things that he finds himself doing and wanting to do things that he can’t seem to accomplish. IFS is a tool that is used to help ease this inner tension which often leads to clarity of mind allowing clients to make confident choices on a path of peace.
We all develop defense mechanisms to protect us from emotional pain. For example, if you are criticized by someone close to you, a typical knee jerk reaction is to get defensive. The first thing we usually do is evaluate our thoughts, feelings and/or behavior, “Is it good or bad?” If we decide it is good, we encourage embracing it and acting from it. If we decide it is bad, we try to get rid of it. However, that doesn’t work; we can’t get rid of a part of ourselves. Most of us have been taught to push it (hurt feelings) down by being told to “Get over it.” However, the human condition doesn’t allow us to “get over it,” so often the hurt feelings will continue to pop up and usually at inconvenient moments.
In therapy, we don’t judge the “problem” parts; rather, we seek to understand them and appreciate their efforts to help, without losing sight of the ways they cause problems. Similar to how Jesus approached sinners; loving them as people and naming the choices or behaviors that were harmful to them and to their relationship with God.
IFS is a model of psychotherapy that can be used as a tool to bridge the gap between what one knows in their head and what ones feels in their heart. Julie will sometimes use IFS as a tool for spiritual direction, helping clients identify what parts of them are blocking them from their relationship with Christ and teaching prayer techniques involving praying for parts (intercessory prayer) and praying from parts (often found in Psalms). Helping those parts creates space inside, allowing the Holy Spirit to flow more freely in one’s life. Unburdening these parts of our personalities leads to a clearer view of one's Imago Dei (God Image) giving them a vision of health and these aspects of our personalities are able to fulfill their true God-given purpose. For example, the inner critic may become an inner cheerleader!
Julie offers Christian IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy as a certified IFS therapist trained at all three levels. Her training is unique in that she had the privilege of attending level 1 & 2 solely with other like-minded Christians which afforded them to wrestle with where the IFS model of therapy does not align with their Judeo-Christian faith world view. Julie has been leading groups, workshops, and lectures for churches, therapists, and clergy since 2006, offering back to the community this integrative perspective on psychology and faith.
View Julie's IFS experience here.
If you are interested in having her provide a workshop for your church or counseling group focusing on the integration of IFS and faith, contact her by email.
Read Dr. Schwartz's article "The Larger Self," his inspiring first-hand account of how he developed and uses the IFS Model and the extraordinary, transformative effect it has on him and his clients.